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Sinkler Family Papers, 1705-1984
    A gift to SCL Manuscripts Division announced in 2009

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The first member of the Sinkler family to arrive in the colonies, James (d. 1752), is believed to have come from Scotland in the early 1700s and to have settled near Bonneau in present-day Berkeley County, S.C. The Sinkler family established residence in Upper St. Johnís Parish in 1785 when James Sinkler (1740 - 1800) and his wife Margaret Cantey moved there from Lower St. Johnís Parish. James and his brother Peter served in the American Revolution and extended significant loans to the state of South Carolina.

The several generations of the Sinkler family that are represented in this collection of four hundred eighty-four manuscripts, four manuscript volumes, seven cased images, and two family photograph albums were connected with the Richardson, Manning, Cantey, Gaillard, Broun, and other families.

Manuscripts in the Sinkler collection (1705, 1739, 1750 - 1953, and 1984) include correspondence, land and legal papers, estate papers, and bills and receipts for plantation supplies, crops sales, and household and medical expenses. The familyís acquisition of property in Upper St. Johnís Parish is thoroughly documented by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century land papers.

The preponderance of the correspondence is dated between 1800 and 1865. There is, however, one letter written during the American Revolution from Captain James Sinkler, Cha[rle]s Town, S.C., to his nephew, Lieutenant Thomas Cooper. Sinkler informed Cooper of General Benjamin Lincolnís attempts "to draw the Enemy out of Their Entrench-ments, but to no purpose. They will not Fight him." Sinkler commented on the presence of the British fleet near the Stono and South Edisto rivers and reports of British troops in Virginia. He was very concerned about another report that "our River is like to cover our Lands" and urged Cooper to report for duty so that Sinkler could go home for a month. Jamesí brother Peter was imprisoned by the British after the siege of Charleston and died in 1782 as a result of contracting typhus fever.

Correspondence and legal papers during the 1790s concern the estate of Peterís son and include a contemporary copy of his will (16 December 1791). A December 1793 document presents a list of enslaved persons owned by Peter Sinkler. The public auction of his lands and slaves occurred in February 1794. Subsequent correspondence of Samuel DuBose, Joseph Glover, and Peter Gaillard concerned the disposition of corn, implements, and silver at Sinklerís Lifeland plantation.

Much of the collection revolves around William Sinkler (1787 - 1853), the son of James and Margaret Cantey Sinkler. William maintained a thirty-five-year correspondence with James Burchell Richardson (1770 - 1836), who married Ann Cantey Sinkler, a daughter of James Sinkler by his second wife, Sarah Cantey. Although there was a seventeen year difference in age between the two men, family, extensive land holdings, a mutual interest in public affairs, and a passion for the sport of horse racing created a bond between them. At his death in 1836, Richardson owned thousands of acres of land and a labor force of three hundred ninety-five slaves. He served in the South Carolina House from 1792 until 1802, when he was elected governor. He completed his term in 1804 and returned to the General Assembly, serving in the S.C. House (1804 - 1805, 1816 - 1817) and the S.C. Senate (1806 - 1813).

The collection contains thirty-six letters from Richardson to William Sinkler. Young Sinkler was studying in Charleston when he received a tender letter (8 February 1801) from Richardson in which the latter expressed hope that "my Dear Williamís health has been thoroughly restored, and his mind engaged in the noble pursuit of science and literature; to accumulate that invaluable treasure which will qualify him in due time for every avocation in Life." He cautioned William that "in a place like Charleston vices of every species are daily exhibited to the human Eye, and however horrible they may appear at the first view, the pure & unsullied mind from frequently witnessing the same, will not view them with less horror only, but if not supported with the purest principles, & firmest determination will at length fall a victim, & become an admirer of those vices - which at first sight, his spotless mind contemplated as a devouring monster."

While in Newport, Rhode Island, likely in 1802, Sinkler was encouraged by his mother to "Support forever my William your honour untarnished." William apparently had discussed an interest in the clergy as a profession, for his mother expressed no objection, "provided, you thought you could live up to the Dignity of the Character you adopt" (10 February 1802?). By 1803 William was studying at Harvard. Governor Richardson acknowledged two letters received from William, encouraged him in his studies as well as "his due & humble recollection of his God," and observed that "you are now of an age to appreciate the true value of a good Education, and your observation will point out the objects that enjoy with peculiar pleasure its just reward." As he did when Sinkler was in Charleston, Richardson cautioned his young friend to avoid "those female allurements which too often draw youth into their vortex, which proves destructive when too closely pursued, to not only their morals, but their constitution" (12 July 1803).

The tone of Richardsonís letter of 7 August 1803 suggested that William had a recent illness, and in addition to sending family news and $100 to Sinkler, Richardson commented that the declaration of war between England and France adversely affected "the Commercial transactions of our Country," including agriculture, which caused Richardson to declare - "I cannot avoid thinking sometimes, it would be advisable to seize the favorable crises of changing to advantage our species of property, so fluctuating in its productive interest."

When the Harvard-educated William Sinkler returned to South Carolina, he assumed the occupation of planter on family lands. Richardson encouraged Sinkler and his brother not to allow any person "to buy the ancient residence of your father for it would affect me to see it in possession of a stranger, but let not this determination be known or it may cause you to be imposed upon nor do not suffer it to go under its full value" (5 October 1805). Just as Richardson had instructed Sinkler on the subjects of education and morals, Williamís role as a planter introduced crops and labor into the correspondence. In a letter of 19 August 1807 Richardson expressed doubt as to the veracity of Mosesí account of his travels. He dispatched the slave to Sinkler so that "you can draw your conclusions of what direction you think those Africans may have taken." Five days later (24 August 1807), he regretted "that you should have so much trouble with those Africans" and advised - "I hope you will do with them as you please, and I pray teach them better than ever to repeat the like offence." He recommended advertising another slave, Cato, in Orangeburg, S.C., "where it is more than probable he may be brought, and request some of them sent on towards Edgefield."

On 28 March 1808 William Sinkler contracted with Benjamin King to build a house on Eutaw plantation. The structure was to be "Forty feet in length and thirty-nine feet in breadth, one and a half story high." The first floor contained four rooms with a passage between the back rooms to accommodate a stairway. The contract specified materials to be used in completing the interior and exterior of the house. Sinkler agreed "to furnish necessary materials for the said house, and to fund the said Benjamin King in Boarding, washing & lodging such as is necessary & convenient, and five hands until the house is inclosed, and two hands until the same shall be completed." "A Plan of Eutaw," drawn by W. Henry Mellard from a survey made in April 1854, indicated that the plantation at that time consisted of six tracts totaling 1,749 acres.

William Sinkler and James B. Richardson shared a mutual interest in the sport of horse racing. In a letter of 22 December 1808 Richardson noted that "my Horses are on the turf dressed for sweating to which I must attend & Sawney in such good order that I wish you could see him holding in readiness for Manchester, where I enjoin you to be & see him retrieve his long lost fame." Shortly after returning "from the sports of the Turf in Pine Ville" (23 November 1810), Richardson commented on the revival of "The sports of the Turf...in this place and at St. Stephens." He assured Sinkler that "my favorite, Precusor is a villain, and I fear will come to very little consequence."

Sinklerís slave Hercules, who is mentioned in a letter (28 July 1830), was a renowned trainer of horses. Several pages in a bank passbook (1854 - 1855) kept by William Sinklerís son, William Henry, record "Mares sent to Shark." In 1855 John G. Guignard inquired of W.H. Sinkler about the availability of "Shark & his Groom to [come] to my house to stay some two or three weeks" for which "every attention will be paid that he & Groom require as well as compensation for his services" (16 May 1855). The Sinkler familyís passion for horse racing continued into the twentieth century. The activities of the St. Johnís Jockey Club at Belvidere plantation in Eutawville are documented by six programs (3 April 1937 - 5 April 1941).

Local politics and events outside the country were of much concern to James B. Richardson. The conflict in Europe that impacted "our Commercial interests" and the violations of the rights of citizens of the United States on the seas weighed heavily on Richardson - "These outrages against our natural rights, & the purloining of our Citizens treasures, demands a firm decisive conduct in our government" (11 August 1810). Richardson detected very little interest in the upcoming elections among persons in his neighborhood - "which peril you know I must encounter too & trust to fate and a fickle public for my success, which to confess the truth, I am regardless about."

Richardsonís distinguished career in public service in many capacities prompted him to encourage William Sinkler along the same path. "The times present an aspect rather unpleasant as to pecuniary considerations," he advised, "but promise a fine field for such young men as you are, to manifest your importance to your country, & establish an exalted standing in Society, & an immortal place in the pages of history; and make you to America, what the armless Nelson was to Britain" (25 June 1810). The political turmoil that erupted in the 1830s over the issue of nullification saddened Richardson - "It seems hardly worth our while to confer on the prospects of Crops while our political horizon seems so convulsed by contending aspirants to power, by advocating the rights as they say of the People. You know my sentiments of the two offensive measures of the general Government, but I am aversed to disunion or nullification which amounts to it; or as Mr. Drayton said (whose address I highly approve) what is worse civil war."

Richardson commended Sinklerís candidacy for the senate from St. Johnís Berkeley and "looked for cool & dispassionate wisdom under the guidance of a merciful God [so] that all the portentous evils that threaten our State may be averted" (28 July 1830). Richardsonís final letter in the collection is dated 19 August 1835. Suffering from impaired eyesight and fearing blindness, he informed Sinkler that "Death would be infinitely preferable to such a state of existence, and may the good God Almighty of his infinite & unlimited mercy rescue me...by his boundless power." Richardson did not elaborate on his comment that "the unquieted situation of the free & coloured population of the Southern Country is indeed a subject of deep regret...."

William Sinkler married Elizabeth Allen Broun in 1810, two years after he began construction of the home at Eutaw. Eight children, two of whom died in infancy, were born to the couple. Sinkler became a widower when his wife died on 3 June 1824.

Information about the activities of family members in the 1830s is disclosed in letters to his son Seaman Deas, who was studying medicine in Philadelphia. Sinklerís letter of 30 June 1836 expresses a fatherís concern for his son Charles - "what are his ideas, for the future, nay even, the present, I am sure I cannot say." He noted "That the present rage and fashion in this City [Charleston], among the well informed and well bred, is to make money - it is quite a fashion - young men are going into counting houses to become men of business - receiving, while they are obtaining information, salaries, quite sufficient for their support - and of course no longer a tax on their friends or parents."

Later that summer, while staying at White Sulphur Springs [a resort in West Virginia now known as the Greenbrier], he complained that "I could spend my time pleasantly here - but when I think of Charles - and some matters I am made gloomy" (15 August 1836). He encouraged Seaman to return to Charleston over the winter to continue his medical education with a physician. He repeated this advice a week later but gave him the option of remaining in Philadelphia or returning - "only graduate with credit - and I am satisfied. The longer I live, the more I see the necessity of every young man, studying a profession, and practicing, he must practice to become conspicuous" (22 August 1836). Seaman Deas Sinkler received a letter from Charleston, S.C., 23 September 1836, that informed him of the deaths of two nephews within days of each other, lamented - "Oh most horrid Pineville it proves a Buryal Ground to all Children the season was so far advanced I had really flattered myself that all would be well with them for this Summer at least," reported that the outbreak of cholera in Charleston prompted the city council to approve "a fine of $500 on any Physician neglecting to report a single case comeing under his knowledge," and related the deaths of thirty slaves on "Capersí Plantation" on Daniel Island.

Dr. Seaman Deas Sinkler died intestate in 1846 at the age of thirty. A document dated 4 May 1847 detailed an agreement between William Sinkler, his three surviving sons, daughter Eliza, and her husband, Richard I. Manning, concerning the disposition of slaves and other property of Dr. Sinkler as well as William Sinklerís financial obligation to his children and son-in-law.

Letters (18 June 1843, 3 August 1849, and 25 October 1850) to William Sinkler from Alabama relative James S. Deas, who was indebted to him, concern the latterís tardiness in making payments, which on one occasion he attributed to the "ruinous state of exchange," and on another he solicited Sinklerís "indulgence for yet another crop." Prospects for the planters in Alabama improved by 1850 - "The planting interests is generally in a state of unprecedented prosperity. The uncertainty of our political prospects prevents their purchasing negroes and their caution keeps the funds in hand." Deas expressed alarm over "the progress towards emancipation which has been steadily advancing since í93," and in a lengthy discussion of the prospect for secession he anticipated a coalition of states "sufficient to alter the Constitution."

William Sinkler departed for a trip to Europe in 1852 carrying with him letters of introduction from Alfred Huger to William C. Rives, Paris, and from Benjamin Huger and Wade Hampton to Abbott Lawrence, London. One of the letters and a medical document prescribing a course of treatment suggest that Sinklerís health factored into his decision to make the trip. A journal, ca. 30 June - 18 September 1852, recorded his travels in London and Paris. He received treatment in Paris, but on his departure from Liverpool on 18 September he noted - "disappointed in not gaining the health which I came to seek." William Sinkler died the following year on 8 June.

The collection contains elaborate plats of Sinkler plantations owned respectively by sons Charles and William Henry. One plat dated April and May 1854 features a "Plan of Belvidere, a plantation containing one thousand two hundred & thirty four acres, Situate on the South side of Santee River, at the Eutaw Springs...now owned by Charles Sinkler, Esqr." The other plat, dated 8 March 1855, depicts a "Plan of Eutaw, a plantation in St. Johnís Berk[e]ley, Charleston District, One thousand and seven hundred and forty Nine acres...& owned by William H. Sinkler Esqr." Wiliam Henry Sinklerís plantation journal, 3 April 1854 - 1 January 1855, contains entries for Eutaw, Belmont, and Sand Hills plantations. Another journal, 1854 - 1864, for Eutaw and Belmont includes lists of slaves with ages; births and deaths; occupations; distribution of clothing, implements, and provisions; and a record of daily activities, crops, animals, and harvests.

A broadside, 23 February 1854, announces the sale of 205 slaves as well as horses, cattle, and plantation utensils at Hyde Park plantation. Ages and occupations of the slaves are listed.

William Henry Sinkler died less than two years after his father on 17 April 1856. Bills and legal papers document his estate which was administered by his brother Charles.

By 1865 William T. Shermanís Federal army had begun its advance through South Carolina. On 26 February 1865 William Henryís widow, A[nna] L[inton] Sinkler, Eutaw, informed her son Henry that the army was within three miles of Moncks Corner and that Wheelerís Confederates had stolen Cousin Gus Fludís "splendid horse Satan." Two days before the former letter, A[nne] L. Gaillard, Walnut Grove, reported to her daughter Alice [Gaillard Palmer] that "Everybody in this neighborhood has determined to stay on their plantations but I suppose when they leave for the summer that the houses will all be burned." She also related a relativeís account "describ[ing] the excitement in Sumter as perfectly dreadful."

Anne Gaillard informed her daughter on 12 March 1865 that "At Mexico [plantation] the negroes with few exceptions behaved shamefully killed all of the poultry, sheep, took all of the rice, sugar, salt, and meat." In addition to an account of the suffering in Columbia, S.C., she discussed at length the experiences of friends with Federal troops and African Americans. "Our negroes," she observed, "are going on just as usual. I do not see the slightest change in them I hope they may continue faithful."

An eight-page letter (20 March 1865) from "Sissy" [Clermonde Gaillard Sinkler] to her sister, Alice [Gaillard Palmer], relates information contained in a letter from Columbia, S.C., in which the writer gave an account of houses and public buildings burned and/or destroyed or damaged - "From all I can learn 68 sqrs or (1300) thirteen hundred houses burned," and accuses the Federals of anti-Semitism - "The Yankees were very bitter against the Jews, seeking them out & burning their houses & crying Ďdown with the Jews.í" Friends had told her of antagonistic actions by African Americans and, she noted, "The negroes at Walworth are a lawless set, they will not even cut a log of lightwood for the family." E[liza] L[ydia] Porcher, of Chapel Hill plantation, 22 April 1865, noted that "[we] were most roughly handled" by Federal troops - "furniture broken, bottles thrown about, Sashes broken, panels to closet doors broken out, & pilfering on an extensive line for they carried off quantities & what they did not, they gave to the Servants & ordered them before us to carry everything off & give us nothing back." She commented on their situation after the departure of the troops and related the experiences of neighbors and their properties.

A 26 April 1865 letter of Anne Gaillard to her daughter Alice tells of friends killed and wounded, remarks - "I suppose before this you have heard that the scouts had been to P[ine] V[ille] killed 27 of the armed negroes and shot Rose," recounts their experiences with Federal troops at Walnut Grove, and comments on the behavior of the Negroes at Eutaw - "Almost all of the Eutaw negroes have gone off. Bob behaved very badly had all of Eugeneís family carried off to the enemy, his wife refused to go with him and he went off and got a guard to take her off." Likenesses of Sinkler family members and friends are included among seven cased images and two photograph albums.

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